Emilie is on an InterStudies High School programme in rural County Monaghan, in the north of Ireland, quite close to the border with Northern Ireland. She’s surrounded by fields and farm animals – a far cry from her city life back home, but she loves it! In this interview, she talks to us about life in Ireland, her fantastic host mum, taking part in the book club and offers some advice for future students!
It’s quite difficult to put it all into one sentence! For every student, I think this exchange year has been different to any other year. I’ve had ups and downs, but it’s been really good! I have managed every challenge, and done plenty of things together with my host family, and created lots of beautiful memories with them. I’ve seen a few different places in Ireland, and I definitely want to come back and see even more later on. I’ve had plenty of good moments, met plenty of nice people and had a really good time so far.
I really like that I have the opportunity to see what it’s like living in the countryside, compared to my normally-busy city back home. I live outside a town which only has 3,000 people, and after that, my next big city is Monaghan – about 20km away. I’m surrounded by fields – I can go for a walk, run across the field in my wellies, cycle around, and explore the forest. It’s really good!
A lot of people here are lost without their cars. Where I’m from, buses and trains and trams are a lot more common, whereas here, everyone uses a car.
I really like living here. My host family’s grandparents live across the field, on a farm, so I’m surrounded by animals. Sheep, cows, donkeys, cats, dogs… and I really like animals!
This is very different to my life back home, but I’m really glad I’m living in the countryside – it gives me the chance to see what life is like here!
I consider myself really lucky to have found my host family – we get on so well!
Before coming here, I had a couple of expectations – about eating dinner together for example. We always eat dinner together, and chat, and go places, and do things together. I really wanted to be placed in a host family with kids – and my host family have four children, aged 15, 11, 9 – and 10 months! So I’m never bored! I’m so lucky, because I’d be worried that I would be homesick otherwise. One of my favourite memories is Christmas – when I look back on it, it was so special. I’ll never forget it!
During lockdown, we’ve had some disagreements now and then, but that’s normal – it gets to people, being stuck in the house together all day every day. I’m looking forward to going back to school. I get on so well with my host mum – we can talk about everything together. She’s great. I’m so happy to have her as my host mum.
You know, I’ve always wanted to join a book club – because I love reading, and I also love talking about books, and getting into the details. I had never found a book club before, so when I saw this one being advertised on Instagram, I signed up straight away!
And I love it! I just love it. I look forward to every single meeting. I have an e-book reader that my dad bought me for it. I really love the book club, and I always write down everything that is said, so that I can keep all the memories and look back on them when I get home.
I think… well, before you travel, you get yourself prepared, and people tell you what you should expect and what you should do. But actually, you have no idea what will happen! But actually, in the end, it will always work out fine.
Going on an exchange year is a journey. You find out how strong you are, and how strong you can be. You will grow (emotionally, I mean, not physically!), and you will face challenges, but you’ll overcome them all. You’ll come back stronger, wiser and more experienced.
All of the exchange students that I’ve met while I’ve been here have said the same – during their time here, they have found out what they want in life, and what’s important to them. It’s also a time to appreciate things that you took for granted before! You value things so much more, and the experience teaches you a lot. It’s one of the best things that you can do.
Sometimes it’s hard, but always say yes – because you’re only here once. It might be the only time you ever get to experience something. You don’t want to miss out on the chance or regret that you didn’t go on a trip or take an opportunity. You’ve got nothing to lose!